Reducing Influenza in the Work Place

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By the end of 14 January 2018, there were 198 new admissions to ICU/HDU with confirmed influenza with GP consultations for influenza-like illnesses increased further with the highest rates in the 45-64 years age group

We’re talking flu, not a cough or a cold but influenza, and even if you are healthy it can leave you aching and sweating and bed ridden for over a week.  In older people, younger children and people with underlying health problems, complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia can be severe and in some cases fatal.  

You can catch it from a surface where the virus has been deposited or from a sneeze or a cough that can spread germs up to 6 feet away and survive in the air for several hours! 

Worse still, 70% of people show no symptoms until after it has spread, meaning it can unwittingly spread through our family, community or workplace, leaving weaker or more vulnerable people at risk.  Figures show that it hits about 20% of the population and it mutates into a different strain every year, so we can never get immunity from it no matter how fit and healthy we are, or how many times we’ve had it before. 

In the workplace, employers have a duty of care to their employees and health and wellbeing are of ever-increasing importance. Running a promotion programme to reduce the impact of influenza including a vaccination program for employees ticks a lot of boxes and goes a long way to demonstrate that the business has their best interests at heart.

It’s not just about the bottom line, for which flu shows no regard, but about engaging employees and protecting the wider society too (over the last few years the flu vaccines have not provided good protection for the over 65’s, highlighting a greater importance than ever to vaccinate other age groups to reduce risk for the elderly).

Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to have an influenza vaccine this year, there are other means by which you can reduce the risk of flu spreading in the workplace.  Here are our top tips for a flu safe workplace!

  • Teach staff good hygiene practices including ‘cough etiquette’ and hand washing techniques
  • Keep the workplace clean
  • Encourage staff NOT to come into work if they are feeling unwell
  • Monitor and assess any sick leave throughout the year so you can plan and strategise well ahead

If your business has been hit hard with influenza this year, you may wish to work with an occupational health professional such as Cordell Health, to discuss your businesses needs and plan a vaccination program as soon as the newest one is available for 2018.

Of course, there is no obligation for employees to take you up on the offer, even if you provide it, nor can it provide 100% protection.  But in large workforces of 500+ people, which show the highest rates of illness,  the likelihood of an epidemic spreading quickly is increased and the cost to the business significantly more dramatic.

With this in mind, is it a cost that businesses can afford NOT to budget? Every year, sick leave costs business an average of approximately £554 per person, and with coughs and colds accounting for nearly a quarter of that, one is left wondering how much could have been prevented.

Nikki Cordell, Managing Director and Consultant Occupational Physician at Cordell Health, advises that ‘‘the more measuring and monitoring of sickness absence that is done throughout the year, the better equipped you are to implement strategies to reduce absence levels and inform an evidence-based health promotion programme.  For many businesses, this will include planning ahead to run a flu vaccination program in October / November before the inevitable flu epidemic of the next winter season hits.’

How has your workplace been affected by the flu this year? Have other employees had to share the workload when people have been off sick or have you been lucky enough to be part of a vaccination program that has had a beneficial effect?

For further information please see the link to Flu and flu vaccines: Expert Interview

The value of Occupational Health

What is Occupational Health? 

Occupational Health covers all aspects of the health of employees in the workplace. It can be preventative, supportive or reactive depending on the needs of the employee and the employer.

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Occupational health professionals come from a number of different healthcare backgrounds including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and technicians. They can each provide specialist expertise, depending on their background and qualifications, to assist a business in looking after the health of its staff.

How can Occupational Health add value to my business?

By law, employers have a duty of care to make sure employees are looked after at work. Occupational Health can assist with this in a number of ways from assessing people’s fitness for safety critical roles, providing advice and screening for health surveillance, educating employees and most importantly, timely advice on supporting people with health problems in work or back to work.

The way people work and are managed at work can have a big effect on their health. The Government is encouraging employers to create healthy workplaces and help manage the cost to the economy of work-related ill health, which is currently estimated at £100bn a year.  Healthy, happy employees are more productive and tend to stay with their employer for longer, reducing the hidden costs of presenteeism and staff turnover.

Which side is Occupational Health on – the employer who pays the bills or the employee?

The answer to this is neither. A good occupational health professional will be objective and spend time with both the business and the employee.  They will need to understand the business’ needs, the constraints of the role and any concerns raised.

The employee will also have a confidential medical or consultation with the occupational health professional, and make sure they fully understand the situation based on the employees' difficulties or needs.

Must a business take the advice of an occupational health professional?

The business should review the advice and consider what is best for the business and the individual. If the recommendations are difficult to implement or they feel are not in the organisations’ best interest, they should take some time to discuss this with the occupational health professional.

They don’t have to follow the advice given and are free to consider other sources of information and have more contact with the employee if necessary.

Money should never be a barrier to implementing changes suggested by Occupational Health. The Government offers grants through its Access To Work scheme, to provide funds to help employers make reasonable adjustments to support employees with medical issues stay in work or get back to work.

Why can’t the business just rely on a fit note or letter from a GP?

Occupational Health is a specialist area of medicine that takes years of training and practise, in the same way, that a doctor might specialise in Surgery or Dentistry, they might also specialise in Occupational Medicine. As a specialist, they have extensive knowledge about different health conditions and their impact on work. This is something that a GP or a hospital doctor might know very little about and may find it difficult to understand the individual’s health problems from a work perspective.  

Interested in more information?

If you want to know more about the value of Occupational Health for the business please contact Kathryn at Cordell Health for a chat or download Occupational health: the value proposition from the society of Occupational Medicine here.

5 ways to find ‘Time to Talk’ in your business

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It’s not often we arrive at work to be told that today it’s ‘time to talk’! But today, Thursday 1st Feb 2018, we’re doing exactly that and showing our support for 'Time to Talk Day'.  Brought about by Time to Change, to encourage everyone to have a conversation about mental health … no matter who they are!  

Mental health is an issue that no organisation can afford to ignore with 1 in 4 British workers being affected by conditions like anxiety, depression and stress every year.  It is also the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year (Time to Change).

Many who are struggling with their mental health are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed.  Very often, it is left to the person who is struggling to find the strength to open up and talk about their illness, as those around them don’t know how to start those difficult conversations and are afraid to say the wrong thing. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

There is a strong business case for tackling the stigma associated with mental illness and even small changes can have a positive impact. Sickness absence rates are reduced, presenteeism levels drop and staff wellbeing, productivity, and retention improve all round if employees feel appropriately supported. Businesses need to know what to say, when to say it and most importantly how it needs to be said.

There has never been a better time to take those first steps and start to make change happen. We’ve put together 5 ways that any business, no matter how big or small, can step up and improve their culture and attitude to mental health in the workplace today.

  1. Work with an independent occupational health organisation that can assess your businesses specific needs for mental health and wellbeing and work with you to put strategies in place. This might include mental resilience training to help prevent mental illness in the first place or training dedicated members of staff to help reduce stress or deal with Mental Health First Aid.
  2. Sign up for the  Time to Change Employer Pledge and develop an action plan to get your employees talking appropriately and supportively about mental health. This could include in-house awareness projects or training for employees and line managers to help understand mental health issues and how to handle those difficult conversations about mental illness within their teams.
  3. Create an in-house mental health resource by choosing one or more members of the team to become dedicated Mental Health First Aiders. Employees will have a dedicated member of staff who they know they can talk to, who has been trained to listen and signpost where to get help.
  4. Review your company’s health benefits, employee assistance program and support structures. Make sure there is provision for confidential support and that your employees know about it. Get senior management on board and lead by example, creating a culturally supportive workplace.
  5. Appropriate communication - find time to talk to colleagues and start a conversation by simply asking if everything’s ok? A quiet private spot away from the office works well, listen without judgement and encourage others to do the same when you notice someone may need a little support.

How is your office finding Time to Talk?  Have you pledged to make any changes to your workplace today?

Management makeover to improve stress at work.

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Managers have long since had a significant impact on employee well-being and engagement with work. Some are natural born leaders who know and understand their teams and magically seem to get the best out of them.  Others operate in high-stress environments and a maelstrom of chaos in the team.

Yet workplace stress and depression figures are through the roof. Back in 2009, the World Health Organisation predicted that by 2020 depression would be the second most important cause of disability in the world. By  2017, it was already the no.1 cause of disability in the world.

Stress at work that leads to long-term absence, has more than doubled since the 1990s, with an estimated 500,000 suffering from work-related stress in the UK. The chances are that someone in your office is struggling with a mental health issue right now.

Trouble is, dealing with those difficult conversations is not a skill that comes naturally to all of us and the ability of the line manager to handle it in a ‘soft’ way, isn’t something that can be learnt overnight. The bitc.org.uk ‘Engagement and Wellbeing’ report states that only a third of employees received any support to manage workplace stress and that managerial trust is falling, with only 40% of employees believing their bosses acted with integrity. It seems that more managers than not find it easier to ignore those difficult conversations and do nothing at all.

The good news is that there is a proven link between positive manager behaviour and booming business.  Evidence shows that good workplaces have higher productivity, greater employee retention and improved customer satisfaction. Furthermore, a three-year study (Towers Watson 2010) showed that operating margins improved by 4% in organisations with high employee engagement. That’s a significant financial uplift and the onus is on managers to enable a cultural shift that stops sweeping employees’ problems under the office carpet and normalises caring behaviour in the workplace. Employees need to believe that coming to a line manager with a problem isn’t going to mean they’re up for the next round of redundancies or could lose their job.

Recognising the benefits from training to improve your ability to understand issues, proactively solve problems and motivate your team is one of the first steps to changing the culture in your workplace. Even if you’re uncomfortable with those potentially difficult conversations, you can change your outlook and adopt positive traits to make a significant impact on the stress levels of your team.

There are 15 managerial behaviours, identified by the CIPD that can directly impact on employees’ stress at work in a positive way.

  1. Be decisive… do what you say
  2. Avoid speaking about team members behind their backs
  3. Maintain a predictable and even mood
  4. Plan work to realistic and achievable deadlines
  5. Act positively on any constructive criticism given to you
  6. Avoid passing your stress onto employees
  7. Plan ahead to avoid placing short-term demands on employees
  8. Give more positive than negative feedback
  9. Be a problem solver rather than leaving problems for others
  10. Help your team gain better work-life balance
  11. Give clear direction and ensure employees understand their role in delivering outputs
  12. Be open to alternative paths
  13. Resolve issues rather than opting to keep the peace
  14. Address complaints of bullying
  15. Check in with employees to make sure they are ok

If you struggle with any of the above it may be that you’ll benefit from some specific management training to take your team more happily and productively through the year ahead. You could call in help from a company like Cordell Health, that is experienced in helping you help your workforce!

Creating a positive workplace through culture, environment and communication.

This week, mental health has been back in the headlines with the announcement of ‘Blue Monday’, coined as the ‘most depressing day of the year’, by Psychologist Cliff Arnoll back in 2004.

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Whether there is a scientifically proven ‘worse day’, for people actually suffering from a mental health issue remains to be seen. Regardless, Blue Monday helps us all by bringing the conversation about mental health into the forefront of our minds, challenging us to think about it and breaking down more of the barriers and stigma attached.

This can only be a good thing, and at Cordell Health this week we have been thinking all about how the mental health of a team can be influenced by subtle changes and positive reinforcement in the workplace. The list could be endless but we’ve narrowed it down to three main areas; Culture, Environment and Communication. See the top tips listed below!

Culture

Autonomy - giving staff the freedom to manage their own time. This might include work from home or flexible hours to fit around family responsibilities.

Support - allowing staff office time to get ‘life admin’ done, rewards for healthy lifestyle or walking challenges, supporting employees to achieve a good work-life balance.

Education - employees continually furnished with new skills are more engaged, motivated and loyal. Skills don’t even have to be work related to have a positive effect. Research has shown that gaining new personal skills reduces stress and improves wellbeing as well as productivity in the workplace.

Perks - Statistics show that employees often value perks more than pay rises, and better still, they don’t always have to cost the company money! They might include benefits such as allowing time off to work for charitable causes, use of the company car or a free day off on your birthday!

Environment

Community - not every office space is oversized and dowsed in natural light, but the way in which you use a working space has a huge impact on the wellness and productivity of a team. The sense of community that bonds a team together with a shared purpose and work ethic comes from a flexible zoned space. No matter how small these areas are, the aim is to try and create 3 zones; an open plan zone for shared creativity, a quiet zone for concentrating and a comfy social zone for relaxation when people need to step away from their desks.

Communication

Body Language - there’s a million variations of the way in which we use our bodies to communicate the most of subtle of things. But this is definitely an area worth thinking about; we all know there’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone whilst they’re checking their emails or sitting fidgeting with arms firmly folded. Generally, in a meeting or a one to one situation you’ll be aiming to show a supportive, positive and communicative stance. This would mean (phones and emails off) sitting with legs and arms uncrossed, head tilted forward and body slightly leaning forward. Eye contact is important but not in a staring way!

Language - The way in which we listen and use our words is full of nuances and we should practice both in equal measure! Use the ‘appreciate, ask and acknowledge’ strategy, getting feedback along the way, asking for opinions and appreciating and acknowledging work well done. Language should be polite, kind and stress positive actions and positive consequences. Focus on what can be done rather than what cannot, by using words such as ‘can’, ‘will’ or ‘able to’.  Suggest alternative solutions and offer people choices. Aim to help others where you can, and be bureaucratic rather than use a tone of blame or put people on the spot.

What do you feel works well or presents challenges in your workplace?

How to care for the mental health of a colleague

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January is a tough month. After all the fun and spending of December, many of us are feeling those New Year blues. The nights draw in, the bank balance is low and we’re probably not even allowing ourselves a cheery slice of chocolate cake.

Of course, this will reflect how we act and operate in the workplace and with reports of breakdowns and depression at an all-time high, we need to be more vigilant than ever that we are taking good care of ourselves and keeping an eye out for our colleagues’ well-being too.

Many employers are ahead of the curve and have support structures in place for employees that are struggling. Yet for those that don’t, how do we tell if a colleague is suffering from a mental health issue and what do we do about it?

How do you know if a colleague is struggling?

Any major life event can trigger stress, but how we react to those stressors is individual to each and every one of us.

Where one may find Christmas so stressful they cannot function, another will excel with the pressure and delight in the challenge it brings. Similarly with a house move, a speeding ticket or a time-pressured project at work. The worst nightmare for one is the making of another.

Without being too ‘big brother’ about it, if you want to support your colleagues, you need to get to know them inside and out. Establishing a behavioural baseline and recognising how they deal with different stresses can, at the very least, help you acknowledge when they might be in need of some extra support or care.

You can never make assumptions that there is a problem, but if you notice any of these 5 warning signs are present for more than a week or two, it may be significant enough to at least start a conversation or ask if they’re ok. 

5 Mental Health Warning Signs:

  • Changes in behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues
  • Changes in their work output, motivation levels and focus. Often frequent short-term absence is a warning sign.
  • Struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems
  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed
  • Changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking.

Now you’ve recognised the signswhat do you do about it?

  • Start a conversation. A one to one away from the office with complete privacy is a good place to start. 
  • Listen without judgment. Let the person talk without trying to push the conversation. Let there be gaps in the discussion if necessary. Let the person you’re worried about set the pace, but be willing to go at his/her speed. Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
  • No means no. Just because you’re ready to talk it doesn’t mean they will be. If they don’t open up, remind them that you are there for them if they want to come back to you.  A gentle ‘is everything ok?’ at a later date will act as a reminder.
  • Be supportive. Statements like  “What can I do to help?” or “Is there anything I can do?” are supportive and not too pushy. Try to show that you understand that depression is a health condition, not a personal flaw or weakness and that it usually gets better with the right management.
  • Talk about the things that used to excite them; invite your colleague to lunch or other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don't push him or her to take on too much too soon.
  • Familiarise yourself with your company’s health benefits. There could be CONFIDENTIAL help and support available that you could point your colleague towards.

The overriding take out from all of these tips is that it’s better to do something than nothing. We should all encourage a duty of care in the workplace and by taking the first steps to help a colleague, you can make a positive difference to the outcome of their experience with a mental health issue. We all owe it to each other.

Has a colleague or a line manager supported you with a mental health issue at work? How did it feel when they first acknowledged that you might be in need of some support

New Years resolutions for business: 10 changes to get the most out of your team

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As we step joyfully into 2018, full of promise and hope for the year ahead, many of us are thinking about the things we’d like to improve about our lives. Often they are personal (eat less, exercise more and sleep A LOT, being mine), and sometimes they are changes that will improve other people’s lives.

2017 saw figures for stress related issues at work at an all time high with the Health and Safety Executive reporting that over 526,000 new workers suffered from stress, depression or anxiety. You might not be running your own business or enterprise but if you’re a line manager you have a chance to make a massive difference to the health and wellbeing of your colleagues in the year ahead. A few simple resolutions for 2018 may help you deliver a healthier and more productive workplace for your organisation.

So, with no further ado, here we give you some inspiration with our New Years resolutions for managers, to help you get the most out of your team. Follow even just one or two of these and YOU will be rewarded with a more productive team as well as an improvement to your working life every day.

1.    Lead by example. Be the kind of manager that celebrates productivity during the working day (rather than after hours), and rewards employees for outputs achieved rather than time spent in the office. You hold the key to the office culture.

2.    Treat people right. Be fair, be kind, and be consistent in your directions and creative in your solutions. Sometimes a little bit of (managerial) flexibility can go a long way.

3.    Listen. Carefully. Take onboard feedback and act positively.

4.    Listen some more. Listen to what is not being said and then think carefully. It’s often what is not being said that sets the alarm bells ringing, and it could be that someone in your team is in need of some support and some Mental Health First Aid.

5.    Be understanding. Your employees’ problems may not be coming from the office, sometimes life just gets in the way. With a bit of understanding and creative thinking you can give them the space and flexibility to heal themselves, and they’ll be back on form much quicker than if you just hope the problem will just go away.

6.    Invest in health & wellbeing. Encourage your team to move their bodies for at least 30 - 60 minutes a day. A walk, a workout in the gym or yoga class, …anything they can manage during the day. They will feel less tired and with those endorphins flowing they’ll be happier and more focused at work.

7.    Invest in education. An inspired and up-skilled team is good for business. Education does not have to be just for the job either; wellbeing education to encourage healthy sleeping, drinking and eating habits can also improve productivity, positivity and loyalty.

8.    Open your door. Encourage your team to come to you without judgment or fear for any kind of problem, take them seriously, address their complaints or just listen to find out what they need and put support in place.

9.    Deal with your stress. Be predictable, calm, positive and realistic. If you’re stressed, practice what you preach, take a walk, breathe and talk to YOUR line manager!

10. Don’t give up! Changing habits or management style isn’t easy. Ride the setbacks and stick at it. Forgive your failures, reward your successes, and take it day by day.

We’d love to hear what your businesses healthy objectives are for 2018? Are they resolutions that you think you can keep?

The secret to SLEEP HEALTH: Our lack of sleep has alarm bells ringing

In this blog, we explore why sleep is so hard to come by and suggest a remedy for a mood-boosting overhaul of your healthy sleep habits!

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With workplace stress on the rise and the ever-present smartphone by the side of the bed, it’s no wonder we are getting a disrupted night’s sleep. Living in our fast-paced, non-stop, 24-hour, working-chatting-shopping-thinking world….we can’t switch off. We are tired, burning out and exhausted. The effect runs much deeper than just needing a stronger coffee on the way to work. In fact, scientists at research organisation Rand have predicted that the effect of sleep deprivation on productivity and health could be costing the British economy up to $50 billion each year.

We think we’re working harder, faster and more productively but it turns out we’re doing the exact opposite as our constant tiredness can cause a lack of motivation, low immunity and negative mood. Company profitability can be affected by the consequential hike in staff turnover, more sick days and an unproductive environment in the workplace, especially in those that require teamwork and creative thinking.

A massive 84% of respondents surveyed by Hult International Business School said they were more irritable after a bad night’s sleep and over half consequently admitted feeling more stressed, anxious and frustrated. The 20-34 age group revealed that 27% felt exhausted every day and were less likely to be able to focus and complete tasks than any other age group.

“It is common for managers and colleagues to look at a lack of focus or motivation, irritability, and bad decision making as being caused by poor training, organisational politics or the work environment. The answer could be much simpler – a lack of sleep.”

From The Wake-up Call: The importance of sleep in organisational life

Of course, not all stress comes from the workplace but three-quarters of workers surveyed by CV-Library cited workplace stress as the main cause of their disrupted sleep. That figure that is likely to rise as you climb the career ladder; more responsibility = more money = more stress = less sleep!

Why can’t we just switch off the lights, close our eyes and go to sleep?

The answer is cortisol, the ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone that gushes into our bodies with adrenaline when we need to be at the top of our game. Normally it peaks in the morning and gradually reduces throughout the day to a low enough level by bedtime for us to relax and get to sleep. In times of stress, however, this same superpower-boosting friend can quickly turn into a 24-hour foe that you can’t switch off.

The buzz stays with you all time. Stuck in a traffic jam? Rushing for a deadline at work? Late to pick up the kids? Worrying about money? The result is often a nervous feeling in our stomach, headache, lack of focus - and wishing there were more hours in the day!

Cortisol can cause a whole host of problems and chief among them is a negative effect on sleep. If you’re lucky enough to be able to nod off, the chances are you’ll wake up during the night and won’t be able to get off again. You’ll likely be tired, craving sugary foods and caffeine and probably in a bad mood. And the cycle starts again……

So, how do we look after our sleep? For starters, we need to take sleep seriously and think about the stress points in our lives. We should all be aiming for a solid 7-8 hours a night. It’s not just something that happens naturally at the end of the day; we need to prioritise it, plan it and prepare for it, to ensure we get those all-important hours in.

SLEEP HEALTH is something all managers and teams can take an active role in and with the New Year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to overhaul our attitudes to those all-important zzzzz's.

  • Schedule sleep so your body develops a good circadian rhythm (its own internal sleep clock)
  • Leave alcohol, caffeine and nicotine well alone
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthily
  • Put technology away – at least 30 minutes before bed!
  • Help staff eat and live healthily maybe provide healthy fruit snacks and fresh water throughout the day
  • Evaluate how your company rewards work behaviour ie, answering emails during evenings and weekends
  • Actively encourage exercise during the working day
  • Let staff work flexible hours so individuals can work when they’re at their most productive
  • Teach staff to time-manage efficiently and go home on time
  • Harness a culture of wellness and support

We all have those moments when our head droops at our desk but do you think you’re getting enough sleep? Would be great to know what you think about sleep and how it affects your working day?

HELP, I’m distracted! Why presenteeism is a problem, not just at Christmas…

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I sat at my desk this morning and started writing a light-hearted festive blog about workplace productivity in the Christmas season. We’re all partying, eating and drinking, and doing the bare minimum at our desks. I’d only got two paragraphs in, by which time I’d had a call from a friend, looked at some shoes on sale, Google-mapped a venue for a meeting on Friday, paid for a school trip and ordered a new dog bed.  I was certainly not being productive! I was present but absent, and sadly it was nothing to do with having gone out and had a good time.

It occurred to me that this is presenteeism, and it’s a problem that is clearly NOT just something that happens at this time of year!

Presenteeism used to specifically refer to employee productivity that was lessened by coming to work when they were sick and should probably have been at home in bed.  More and more it’s being used to describe the way in which we work and how our productivity is challenged by the way in which we live. We face constant distractions. We can barely have a face-to-face conversation without beeping or buzzing and we struggle to focus even when we’re on our own. We tap or swipe our phone screens an average of 2,617 times a day!  And the constant alerts from watches or emails remind us there’s a bargain to be had or that someone needs something from us. It’s an adrenalin-fuelled pastime that is hard to ignore and is making us stressed and unproductive.

The British Heart Foundation suggests that presenteeism due to stress and issues with mental health could well be costing the UK economy £15.1bn a year and it’s obvious that technology plays a large part in it.

BUT what to do with this tide of technology? You can’t get an entire workforce to turn off their phones, emails and alerts; we’re all adults after all!

I was reminded of a story I heard from someone that worked in a careers office (in the dark ages before mobile phones). They had a phone system that would call you at 10:30am to remind you to stop and take a break. Everyone would put down their pens, walk away from their desks and phones and head to the staff room where they had a tea rota. They’d all have a drink and a chat and after 20 minutes or so head back to their desks, focused and refreshed.

It’s old-fashioned I know, but there’s something wholesome and nourishing about legitimising ‘switching off’ and taking a break! We didn’t have access to work 24 hours a day back then, but I bet they were more productive and happier overall.

Riding the tech wave requires organisations to culturally shift, so that they can thrive on the benefits of technology but care about their employee’s mental health and wellbeing too.

With that in mind (and phone turned off), here are some thoughts for diminishing your company’s tech-related presenteeism in 2018!

1.    Be open. Create a culture in which employees have a safe place to share worries with colleagues or line managers. It might not be work related but if they feel supported they are more likely to perform their best

2.    Organise a review of your workplace policies and help staff understand their individual working style. By opening up the conversation about distractions and presenteeism you will be able to explore with them how to maximise their most productive times of day. This could include different working hours or a period in the day when they acknowledge they would benefit from putting their phones away.

3.    Build a working environment that celebrates a good work/ life balance, where taking work home and answering emails in the evenings is not encouraged.

4.    Time management training with trained staff on how to schedule their day so that there’s a time set aside for social media, prioritising emails or booking a holiday! No business expects employees to have their head down eight hours a day but minimising the distraction or saving it for less-focused hours will maximise output in the day.

5.    Encourage a healthy balanced lifestyle by offering gym memberships, a team sport or a group walk at lunchtimes. Spread awareness on the importance of getting quality sleep, and encourage staff to communicate with their line manager if it’s becoming a problem. Supply fruit and plenty of water.

6.    If you are worried about your teams stress you may need some Mental Health First Aid!

I could definitely benefit from thinking about my productive times of day and making sure I maximise them whilst using the less productive times to get my personal admin and emails done – guilt free!

 Would be great to know what you think? Is there one change you could make in the New Year?

Disability Awareness Q & A

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Following on from our blog last week we thought we’d share the top 12 Q&A’s we come across in our Disability Awareness Training.

1. Do I shake hands? Absolutely. Offer your hand in the same way you would to anyone and then confidently shake whatever is offered to you, whether it’s an artificial limb or a partial hand. If they are unable to raise either hand you might gently touch their arm as a friendly greeting.

2. How do I refer to their disability? Focus on the individual rather than their disability. They are first and foremost a person and the disability is something they have. Whilst you might be trying to show empathy in describing someone as ‘suffering from’ or ‘confined to’, it can sound negative and is best avoided. 

3. What if I need to ask them about how their disability would affect their role at work?  The best way to approach this is to ask them how they would go about performing the functions of the job. It is a question you would need to ask everyone you interviewed able-bodied or not! An employer is expected to make reasonable adjustments to enable someone with a disability do the job and it would be acceptable to ask in an interview what sort of adjustments they might need. Government funding is available to advise and financially support adjustments in the workplace.

4. Should I offer to help? Of course, always offer to help but wait until the offer is accepted and then follow their instructions as to what kind of help they need.

5. What do I do if I see someone struggling with their wheelchair? Offer to help but never touch, move or play with someone’s wheelchair (or any assistive equipment) without their permission. It is part of the space that belongs to that person.

6. How do I talk to a deaf person? Don’t shout…it distorts sound produced through a hearing aid and makes lip reading really hard. DO Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and naturally so they have the opportunity to lip read if they are able.

7. Where do I look if I’m talking to a blind person? Look directly at the person you are talking to, even if they have someone with them. Don’t assume they can’t see anything. Always introduce yourself and tell them who else is in the room, it’s fine to ask if they need help. They may ask you to turn the lights on, guide them somewhere or describe where things are in the room so they can find their own way around.

8. How do I talk to someone in a wheelchair? If you’re talking for more than a few minutes it’s polite to get down to their eye level, either squat or pull up a chair.

9. What if I’m trying to help but it comes across as discrimination? If you treat a disabled person the same as anyone else this should not happen but if you’re unsure look up the law.

10. Is it ok to say someone is handicapped? This is no longer considered politically correct as it has such negative connotations. It implies that they are at a disadvantage. Stick to referring directly to the person (as you would with an able-bodied person), and if it’s relevant, the disability that they have.

11. What if an employee who is disabled does something wrong? All employees should be treated fairly and receive constructive feedback when it’s needed.  Your expectations should be the same and as long as the right support is in place for the person with a disability there is no reason why you shouldn’t have exactly the same expectations of them. An employee with a disability will want to do just as good a job and have access to just as challenging projects and promotions as an employee without a disability.

12. I’m just so worried that I might say something wrong and offend someone! Relax! There is no need to get bogged down with being so politically correct or super sensitive to the right and wrong that you get your words in a muddle. If you say something you realise isn’t right, apologise and carry on, or ask the person whom you are talking to what they would prefer you said.  Don’t be patronizing, use your normal voice and speak in your usual way!

If you relate to any of these questions it could be that you would benefit from some disability awareness training. You can get advice from www.gov.uk or contact Cordell Health for workplace training days.

Got any questions you’d like to ask about disability etiquette or concerns about interviewing or employing someone with a disability? Let us know…we’d be happy to share some more advice.

Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Sunday 3rd December was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Brought about by the United Nations to promote an understanding of disability issues and to spread awareness of the many gains from the ‘full integration of persons with disabilities’ in every aspect of life.

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It’s 2017, and we still need reminding that we should be integrating people with disabilities into our everyday life including the workplace! What era are we living in? In the same way that it’s hard to imagine that women once didn’t have the right to vote, we will undoubtedly look back in disbelief that in 2017 there are still barriers in engaging with or employing people with disabilities, because of the perceived challenges?

Yet it’s true. We DO need reminding. Gov.uk reports that less than half disabled people who would like to work are in employment, not because they are unable to but because they are unable to find work. Evidence shows a diverse and inclusive workforce is good for business but achieving it still requires action! It’s not going to happen on its own. Employers and line managers need to be on board. They are the gatekeepers and as far as disabled people are concerned, access to work can be a real challenge.  

It’s not that they don’t have the skills, far from it, but there is a focus by non-disabled people on what they CAN’T do, rather than what they CAN do.  

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Unlocking the barriers takes time and the gatekeepers are the ones who can bridge this unemployment gap and lead the ‘charge for change’ in their own workplace.  Education is key; we need to be immersed in disability awareness from every angle.  Programs, such as the BBC’s Employable Me that documents an intimate journey with the disabled person along the ‘yellow brick road’ to employment, go a long way to spread awareness. In addition, thinking of adjustments in the workplace to enable access to work can support someone with a disability enter the workforce. If employers can learn to look past the disability to the ABILITY of the person in front of them, then we will be well on the road to change.

Are YOU and your team at work disability aware?  We’d love to hear what your team do, to combat prejudices in the workplace.

Emergency call for Mental Health First Aid

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We think about our resident first-aider at work rushing to deal with an emergency, should it arise.  They might be able to dress a wound, numb a pain or even save a life with CPR. But what about the emergencies we can’t see, those that are suffering in silence with a mental health issue?  Statistics show that the problem is worse than we might think: a YouGov 2013 report stated that 1-in-5 people have taken a day off due to stress, but that 90% feel unable to tell their employer that mental health was the reason.

Despite the government recently announcing that the Department of Health and Public Health England are launching a campaign to train 1 million people in basic mental health first aid skills, there is still a whole culture that needs to change. We don’t really know what’s going on beneath the radar, but the fact remains that mental health in the workplace is still a taboo and it’s not going to change without employers stepping up and starting the conversation.

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Over half UK employers would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but they don’t feel they have the right training or guidance to do so. Equipping ourselves with the skills to have that conversation needn’t be as hard as we might think. If just one person in a workplace can be trained to become a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) it can go a long way towards creating a workplace culture where people can talk openly about what’s going on in their lives and how it may affect their work.

So, what exactly is a Mental Health First Aider?

Someone that has been trained to be mental health-literate, meaning they can recognise the signs that someone might be struggling and are trained in having those difficult first conversations. They listen, support and signpost so that the person can get the help they need from inside and outside of the workplace. Anyone can become a MHFA, from those in typically high stress male dominated environments to those in people facing service roles such as hairdressing, police force, nursing or teaching.

Isn’t that going to cost my business a fortune?

Actually, no. It’s more likely to make you money in the long run! Staff will be more engaged and stay with the company for longer, they will be happier, healthier and more motivated. If that’s not enough, an improvement of all these things brings with it a drop in ‘presenteeism’; there’ll be no more coming in and staring at a blank screen for your team!  Presenteeism is estimated to cost the UK economy an average of £605 per employee per year, making the cost savings, especially for a larger company, huge!

How do I know if a colleague is in need of Mental Health First Aid?

According to the Take 10 Together campaign the first step to getting someone the help they might need is to be aware of any unusual changes in their behaviour. By taking time to observe and consider if the action is a one-off (after a particularly stressful school run) or a more permanent change, you’ll be able to see if they are struggling. These are the MHFA England (www.mhfaengland.org) top signs to look out for:

Physical

  • Frequent headaches or stomach upsets 
  • More days off sick with minor illnesses
  • Difficulty sleeping or constant tiredness
  • Being run down
  • Lack of care over appearance
  • Sudden weight loss or gain

Emotional and Behavioural

  • Irritability, aggression or tearfulness
  • Being withdrawn, not participating in conversation or social activities
  • Increased arguments or conflict with others
  • Increased consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes or sedatives
  • Indecision, inability to concentrate
  • Erratic or socially unacceptable behaviour
  • Being louder or more exuberant than usual
  • Loss of confidence
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Loss of humour

At Work

  • Increased errors, missing deadlines or forgetting tasks
  • Taking on too much work and volunteering for every new project
  • An employee who is normally punctual arriving late
  • Working too many hours, first in-last out, sending emails out of hours or while on leave
  • Increased sickness absence
  • Being fixated with fair treatment and quick to use grievance procedures

Want to get started? Download the MHFA ‘Starting the conversation’ toolkit here or consider training with Cordell Health to become a Mental Health First Aider in your workplace. If you’ve already got experience of helping a colleague in need of some MHFA we’d love you to share your top tips on how you’ve managed to broach those difficult conversations and what reaction you’ve had.

Stress test: Top 10 tips for a happy and productive team

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It’s likely that Stress Awareness Day on 1st November passed many of us by as we ordered our morning coffee or rushed about our daily lives. It’s no surprise, the reality is that more of us are suffering from stress and feeling under pressure than ever before and the ripples spread far and wide.

A third of us are unhappy with our work-life balance, and with mobile devices increasingly blurring the line between employment and family life it’s no wonder we’re all so stressed! What’s worse, this figure is on the rise. It’s a vicious circle where the more time we spend in contact with work, the more we think about it and the more negative the impact it has on our lives.

HSE published the latest figures on 1st November – these show that out of 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness, 12.5 were due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression. Health and Safety at work regulations 1999 mean employers have a duty to ‘assess the risk of stress related ill health arising from work activities’ and ‘take measures to control that risk’ (1974 Health Act). So why isn’t more being done?

The law protects us to some extent but talking about mental health in the workplace remains somewhat of a taboo; there is a culture of silence and a reluctance to make it known within the workplace for fear of negative consequences. The BITC/YouGov Mental Health at Work Report 2017 revealed that in 15% of cases where a mental health issue had been disclosed to a line manager, the employee became subject to disciplinary procedures, dismissal or demotion.

It’s not that managers don’t care. The same survey showed that 91% of managers were aware that what they do directly affects the wellbeing of their staff. However, less than a quarter of them had undergone any training in mental health issues and felt underequipped to prevent or deal with any issues should they arise.

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Business needs to wake up to what is really happening here and find a way to address the imbalance. Talking about stress in the workplace and offering mental health training and support for employees is GOOD for business. A happy employee is a productive one: workers whose mental health is taken seriously in the workplace and who enjoy a supportive and open environment are much more productive. This can result in up to £4 in improved efficiency and productivity for every £1 spent on mental health care, according to the Health and Safety Executive. That’s a return on investment that no company can afford to ignore.

As with any health issue, the ideal scenario is not to get ill in the first place; mental health is no different. Managers can put in place simple steps to cultivate support, making employees and their wellbeing central to the business and its growth.  One simple change can have a positive impact, improving staff retention, reducing sickness and ensuring a productive and motivated workforce.

These Top 10 tips are not exhaustive but provide the root of simple and cost-effective systems for stress prevention and a happy and productive team in the workplace. That will help make sure every day is a ‘stress awareness day’.

  • Undertake a stress risk assessment to identify potential causes of stress in the workplace and eliminate or reduce the risk they present. Useful information can be found on the HSE website. If you need any help or advice in undertaking a stress risk assessment contact Cordell Health..
  • Build emotional resilience, encourage staff to go home at a reasonable time and make sure they take their holidays. Discourage emailing outside office hours.
  • Give honest objective feedback and help employees learn from their mistakes
  • Recognise, reward and appreciate achievements
  • Build good support systems in the workplace where working practices and problems are shared. Make sure workloads and priorities are agreed and maintained.
  • Encourage healthy eating and regular physical activity. Provide fresh fruit and water.
  • Organise regular out-of-work activities in which the whole team can take part.  This might include volunteering or supporting a local charity.
  • Create a pleasant work environment, with plenty of natural light and good ventilation as well are shared common spaces.
  • Help employees understand and accept that there are some things they cannot change. Anxiety often arises from trying to change things beyond our control and acceptance is key to overcoming this.
  • Encourage employees to identify areas they find difficult and support them in devising and implementing a plan to tackle these areas.

(Mental Health at Work Report. YouGov 2017)

How do YOU feel about stress in your workplace. What systems are in place to support you or your team?

5 steps to seeing past disability

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#whoknew that disabled people can work too? Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Of course, they can. Yet according to Gov.uk, less than half disabled people who would like to work are not in employment.

 

Despite often applying for jobs they’re overqualified for, a disabled person can expect to get a stream of rejections day after day.  Employers are sitting with their hands tied behind their backs in fear of getting it wrong, worried about how much it’ll cost, believing that it’ll mean someone is always off sick. It’s easier just to not go there at all. Yet, disabled people make up one of the most loyal and committed workforces out there and it’s time employers opened their eyes and made a change. This untapped resource has a huge role to play and with little more than a desire to change, British business can make a difference today.

Disability awareness training

We know about inequality in the workplace due to sexism and racism, and society has come a long way in enabling us to be able to openly talk about it. Disability is the difference that we don’t yet know how to address. Line managers and human resources are the gatekeepers –get them trained in disability awareness so they have the confidence to make this change and share it with the company. Everyone has a part to play.  #whoknew cordellhealthealth.co.uk/support is a social enterprise offering support through educating employers and helping employers and individuals make adjustments. Or try https://disabilityconfident.campaign.gov.uk

Shout about it

Most disabled people are put off jobs before they’ve even applied. Shout about the diversity in your workplace by making sure your disability policy is in clear site on your website and that the applications process is accessible for all.

Interview the person

Interviewing a disabled person shouldn’t be any different to interviewing anyone else. Don’t talk about the difference. Talk about their ability, the job, the responsibilities, how they would envisage themselves fulfilling the role. See past the label and interview the person. If the person thinks they would need some workplace alterations in order to enable them to do the job this can be organised at a later date.

Call in the Support

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There are loads of places you can go to get support if a disabled person is right for the job. www.gov.uk/access-to-work offers advice and funding at no cost to the employer. A lot of the time changes needn’t cost anything and can be as simple as offering flexible working hours to miss rush hour on public transport or enabling them to work from home. www.disabilityrightsuk.org/access-work  

 

 

Add Value

A diverse workforce is stronger and more creative, the more elements of society it represents, the more views and resources it has to draw on and the better the business’ competitive edge. Not only that, but disabled people are more likely to be engaged and loyal than other employees. After all the best view often comes from the hardest climb….

Do you have diversity in your workplace? It would be great to hear about your experiences of how your colleagues have overcome adversity to fulfil a workplace role.

Moving the focus from disability to ability

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The Cordell Health team was at the large workplace health conference at the NEC in Birmingham 7-8 March 2017, with a stand and also as speakers.  

Robin chaired the national policy session on day one, with speakers that included Dame Carol Black, the Government’s Expert Advisor on health and work, and Simon Stephens, Chief Executive of the NHS. The Government’s priority is to improve the employment prospects of those with health conditions and disabilities; to reduce the disability-employment gap between the 80% employment rate for those without a disability and only 48% of those with health conditions and disabilities.  

On day two Robin spoke about how through effectively influencing health professionals, employers, and people who have health conditions and disabilities themselves, we can change the focus from disability to ability.  

For health professionals, all consultations for those with long term health conditions should include how they might best be supported in work; for those who have left work due to ill health it is much more difficult to then find another job that makes best use of these people’s skills.  Healthcare interventions should therefore include consideration of how all aspects of that person’s function might be improved including work.  As Dame Carol stated in her talk on Day One, health professionals and the NHS as a whole should see being in good work as a positive health outcome.  

Employers have a major part to play.  By recruiting on the basis of people’s abilities, employers will reap the benefit of committed employees doing the right work for them.  Useful advice for employers may be found in last year’s new international standard, ISO 27500, the human centred organisation.  Our role as health professionals is to advise on setting the conditions for optimal employment, including in our case as occupational health professionals contributing to management training programmes, and for assessment of individual employees or potential employees and recommending reasonable adjustments to “level the playing field” for those with health conditions and disabilities.  

Finally, it is people themselves that are in charge of their own health, as advised by health professionals, and as enabled by their employer or potential employers.  By adopting a positive culture, and empowering all employees “to be the best they can be”, organisations will realise the benefit of a workforce that feels good about themselves, so improving motivation and retention of skilled staff, and through demonstrating the value this brings to customers in terms of service and quality of products from a motivated workforce, to enhance business financial performance. People with long terms health conditions may well have impairments that lead to disabilities, but it is their abilities that really matter to them and all around them.

See Robin’s presentation to the Health and Wellbeing @ Work Conference for 2017, Leadership through influence - what works to improve health and work? 

Guidance for employers: do I need to introduce health surveillance for my workforce – and if so how do I go about organising this?

HSE has just recently launched its new strategy, with a particular emphasis on health: Helping Great Britain work well.  This is available online at http://www.hse.gov.uk/strategy/index.htm.  An element of this strategy is the need for employers to be alert to risks to health, and for health surveillance to be in place when this is required.  

Employers will know of the requirements placed on them within the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.  Those in the manufacturing and construction sectors especially will be aware of specific legislation such as the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.  Depending on the industry, legislation relating to asbestos, lead and ionising radiation may also apply.

Common to all these regulations and their associated approved codes of practice is the need for risk assessment, and where risks are identified to the health of the workforce, to introduce health surveillance.  In some cases health surveillance is compulsory; HSE provides a useful decision making guide.  

However, not all employers may be aware of specific duties in protecting the health and safety of their employees.  In my experience this can be the case where the majority of the workforce are not significantly exposed to major physical or chemical hazards.  Health surveillance is a programme of health checks targeted on those identified as being at risk through risk assessment, and following consideration of control measures.  

Having identified a potential need for health surveillance, and having consulted the HSE guidance, we can advise managers, and also arrange for an assessment visit to your premises should this be helpful, by contacting us via the form on our website or by email to enquiries@cordellhealth.co.uk.